Should I, Shouldn't I, Are you, Am I, Wearing a Face Mask?

Check out our hand-made, sustainable and reusable non-medical face mask collection here!

(Information correct at time of writing)

As a brand who's mission is to promote sustainability, Pathetic Brands took the decision to offer our customers a variety of face masks from pretty floral patterns to plain black 100% Organic Cotton ones. There has been some controversy over businesses supplying face masks with some labelling it unethical to take advantage of the situation. Here at Pathetic Brands, we do not believe this is the case. 

Why the controversy?

A key factor to sustainability is society and this is why Pathetic Brands chose to provide our communities with an opportunity to protect themselves. People question how effective face masks are all the time and some enjoy a long-winded and deep conversation about it...but we take a different approach.

The way we see it, no one on earth truly knows how to deal with this virus effectively...yet. All the World Health Organisation (WHO) can do is recommend measures based on very recent scientific research. It is then up to you, as an individual, (and your government) to carry out your own risk assessment and decide what works for you and the people around you.

The latest advice from The WHO

The 2m rule is expected to reduce infection through 'droplet transmission'. Close contact is considered to be within 1m and this is when a person is at greatest risk of exposure to potentially infective respiratory droplets. Coughing, sneezing or very close personal contact can result in 'the inoculation of entry portals such as the mouth, nose or conjunctivae' [1].

Now I'm not sure about you, but I've noticed people are beginning to get more relaxed about this whole '2m rule' thing however the World Health Organisation says current evidence suggests it's symptomatic people who are transmitting to others in close contact, when not wearing appropriate PPE. More worryingly, pre-symptomatic transmission is possible and it's noted that 'people who develop symptoms appear to have higher viral loads (amount of virus in a given volume of bodily fluid) on or just prior to the day of symptom onset' [1].

While it is difficult to conduct controlled studies, available evidence from Member States (WHO) suggests that asymptomatically-infected individuals (those who do not show or experience symptoms but are indeed infected) are much less likely to transmit the virus.

In terms of wearing a non-medical face mask, this is their advice:

Table 2. Examples of where the general public should wear non-medical face masks

THE PSYCHOLOGY BEHIND A FACE MASK

The WHO and the Welsh Government expresses concern that the use of face masks can lure people into a false sense of security 'which makes them less careful about social distancing and hand washing' [2]. 

Now I'm no psychologist by any means, but I don't personally agree with this. I conducted my own little experiment while carrying out my last weekly shop to see if this was the case. I walked into the supermarket without a mask on and while social distancing was enforced, no one was taking it very seriously. I had people reaching for the sausage and bacon, left, right and centre, well within 1m of me. I wasn't a fan of this I must admit...so I threw a mask on...

Instantly, as though an imaginary force field had descended around me, people became more conscious and they kept their distance. I don't know why this happened but I can only imagine the following reasons:

1. Either it reminded people that, oh yeah, we're in a middle of a pandemic, we should keep our distance. 

2. They saw I was concerned for my wellbeing and respected that so stayed away.

3. Or they suddenly became concerned for their own wellbeing because no one is 100% sure whether or not I'm asymptomatic and performing source control.

The WHO’s advice to governments

The WHO encourages decision makers to apply a risk-based approach based on the following criteria. It is this criteria that governments and local jurisdictions use to decide whether to 'recommend' or make 'mandatory' the use of face masks.

It's a shame this isn't better available to the general public but if you want to read more, you can find it here. As mentioned earlier, people should perform their own risk assessment and make their own decisions based on facts when following ‘recommended’ guidelines. However, people must follow ‘mandatory’ guidelines set out by their government as these are in fact legal requirements.

This is the criteria provided by the WHO (a simplified version of course):

1. PURPOSE

Are you wearing the mask to avoid transmitting the virus (source control) or to protect yourself from transmission (prevention)? If it's source control, you should self-isolate for 7 days.

2. EXPOSURE

Does your job require you to work in close contact with others? e.g. cashiers, public transport.

Is there a contact tracing system in place (yes, track and trace) and is regular testing available to you?

3. VULNERABILITY  

Are you vulnerable or are in regular contact with someone deemed as vulnerable?

4. SETTING

Do you live in a setting with a high population density? 

Do you come into close contact with people (<1m) often?

Do you come into regular contact with people who may have travelled from outside your local area?

5. FEASIBILITY 

Availability, cost, access to clean water to wash non-medical masks (yes to all in Wales).

6. TYPE

Do you need to use a medical or non-medical mask?

 Sustainability

The World Economic Forum reports an increase in plastic waste due to PPE (read more here). Unfortunately there is little that can be done with this currently as contaminated waste cannot be recycled. 

Pathetic Brands does not use elastic in our reusable face masks and the soft strings offer easy adjustment and comfort. The masks are hand made in the UK with quality and durability in mind.

Conclusion

No one really knows for sure what we're dealing with right now and so the best option is to take as many precautions as possible (without damaging your own mental health...everything in life is a balance). Use the above information to help you make informed decisions rather than becoming paranoid and throwing common sense out the window.

Providing you regularly wash your reusable face mask and take care to avoid self-contamination (e.g. through manipulating the mask with contaminated hands), a face mask must surely provide you with that added barrier against infection. Work out when you should best wear a mask to avoid having to clean it too often and be sure to remove the mask properly. This can reduce the likelihood of accidental contamination.

  

[1] https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/advice-on-the-use-of-masks-in-the-community-during-home-care-and-in-healthcare-settings-in-the-context-of-the-novel-coronavirus-(2019-ncov)-outbreak 

[2] https://gov.wales/face-coverings-frequently-asked-questions